Three astronauts have been chosen to undertake a mission to Mars, but first of all they must survive a gruelling 17-month simulation in the Utah desert. On paper, Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka and Sergei Kuznetsov are prime candidates. They have all been to space before, but they all still have something to prove - Helen wants to return to the cosmos because it is the only place she has ever really felt secure, Yoshi wants to show that he is worthy of his wife, and Sergei wants to be a better father and role model. But back at home, their families also have struggles of their own. It is not just the three astronauts who are going to be put through the physical and emotional wringer codenamed operation Eidolon.
Despite its high-tech setting (and author Meg Howrey has obviously put a lot of research into the space exploration elements of her story) this is a novel about relationships, and the interconnectedness (or not) of its three main characters to the people they love, who are forced to stand by and continue living their lives while their mother, husband and father undertake this extraordinary assignment. And, make no mistake about it, although this is a simulation there are very clear and present dangers involved. A successful outcome is absolutely not predetermined.
The Wanderers isn't about space travel, it is about why people like Helen Kane and her colleagues choose to become astronauts, leaving the Earth and everybody they are close to behind - and for what? Are the risks worth the reward? How does long-haul space travel affect the astronaut’s perceptions of their own lives? And what is it like to function under continual stress, knowing that you are always under evaluation and that everything you do is being closely scrutinised?
It is an interesting approach, but sometimes gets a little wearing on the reader. Howrey's writing is beautiful, but the multiple inner dialogues can become tiresome and there are times when you just wish that something would physically happen to drive the story forwards and break up the monotony. If you’re looking for action then you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you keep with it, you'll find yourself being rewarded by a story that offers genuine insight into what it takes to be human. As Howrey strips her characters down to the core, we are ultimately left wondering if the greatest adventure we can undertake is actually the journey within ourselves.
THE WANDERERS / AUTHOR: MEG HOWREY / PUBLISHER: G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW